24 June 2007

Epic finish

Saturday, the last day of the Nordics, offered an epic finish of the competition. The forecast and morning hours indicated stable air and light winds, but local guru Steve Ham was quite certain that the day would be good later and the task committee set a challenging 77 km task. Most pilots did wait when the launch window opened, even as the start was an exit 15 km from launch. With my confidence boosted by Fridays good flying I decided to launch when I saw most others waiting. I am usually good in working light stuff (helped by being a bit light on my glider) but to do that effectively one needs a bit of elbow room; something hard to get when in a gaggle with a tens of others gliders, right next to the hill. This strategy worked but it was really hard work.
With a few fellow early starters we worked hard around Villafranca to get up, only to see the later starters blaze high over us. Conditions clearly improved throughout the afternoon and those that got high early on had a relatively easy flight across the pass. I managed to work my way up and over the pass and from then on I could speed up towards Avila. By now there was a lot of convergence; from earlier flying in this region I knew to look out for that. At the turnpoint dropped a bit low again, but a furious thermal hunt yielded in a good boomer. Once I was up at 3000 m again I was quite sure I could make goal, a first for me in a comp! After 5:18 hours made the goal and a little while later landed in a field filled with happy pilots (see track). Thanks to the improving conditions over 40 pilots made goal !
On this last task the Finns did well with 7 pilots in goal: Ari (11), Antti (17), Make (19), Jouni (26), Robert (39), Kari (46), and Javis (46). The others all landed short of the pass, but Mladen and Kasperi went up the hill again to enjoy the conditions in afternoon flights.
Overall the comp was a nice event. Once the good weather kicked Mads, the director, and his committee set excellent tasks that made everybody fly a lot. In his report Mads concludes, and I agree, that Piedrahita is nice but not ideal for a comp like this, as the initial part of each task tends to be very difficult. Ideally the tasks get more difficult towards the end. However, I surely enjoyed the flying including the tricky phases even though I landed early in the first two tasks. I'm convinced that participating in a large comp like this simply requires experience, in addition to solid flying skills of course.
In the overall score I placed 80th, which given those first two bad days I can be quite happy with. Jouni was 3rd overall, and Antti an excellent 16 and 2nd Serial Class pilot (serial class gliders are certified, i.e. have passed some safety tests). Ronny Helgesen from Norway is the new champion and Anders Baerheim, Norway, 2nd. It is nice to see that the "foreign" participation could not break this Nordic hegemony, especially France and the UK had strong contenders.

The Nordics also included the Finnish Paragliding Nationals so here are all Finns (in parentheses the result in the Nordic Open):

1. Jouni (3)
2. Antti (16)
3. Ari (18)
4. Make (33)
5. Kari (34)
6. Javis (62)
7. Robert (80)
8. Mladen (89)
9. Kasperi (115)
10. Jari (126)
11. Esa (132)
12. Taina (136)

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